Government announces change to parental bereavement leave and pay
The Government has announced that any employee who loses a child under the age of 18, or suffers a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, will now be entitled to two weeks’ bereavement leave with statutory pay.
The response follows a campaign run by Lucy Herd, whose young son, Jack, passed away in 2010. At the time, the child’s father was only given three days off work to grieve. Lucy’s campaign for change resulted in the current Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill receiving royal assent in 2018.
Ministers have said this new legal right, known as Jack’s law, is “the most generous parental bereavement pay offer in the world”. It’s thought to support 10,000 families a year in the UK and comes into place in April 2020.
What is the current law on time off for bereavement?
Currently, UK employees have no automatic right to paid time off for bereavement. Many people have spoken out about the gap between what employers are saying they offer compared to what they are actually given and how they are treated.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) says that anyone classed as an employee does have the right to time off for a ‘dependant’. This includes time taken to deal with unexpected emergencies and time to arrange or attend a funeral. However, the current law does not specify exactly how much time can be taken off for a dependent. It simply states that it should be ‘reasonable’.
What does this mean for employers and employees?
Until Jack’s Law comes into place, employees do not have an automatic right to paid time off for bereavement. It also depends on the employer’s stance.
From April, parents who lose a child under the age of 18 will now be able to take bereavement leave. It can be taken as either a single block of two weeks, or as two separate blocks of one week each during the first year after the death.
Those who have been employed for at least 26 weeks will be entitled to a minimum payment of up to £148 a week during their bereavement leave, dependent on their salary.
Employers may want to review their current employment contracts ahead of April. Our employment law solicitors can advise employers and employees on their contract of employment and relevant workplace policies.